Since Jesus cannot be detached from His teachings and still be the Jesus of the Gospels, can the teachings of Jesus be detached from Jesus and still be His teachings? Are Jesus’ statements “Love your enemies,” or “turn the other cheek” the same teachings that Jesus communicated, if detached from the person of Jesus? The answer is they are not! The words may be the same but the meaning of those words changes once they are disassociated from the person of Jesus.
For example, what Gandhi means by nonviolent love towards friends and enemies is not what Jesus means by those words. Gandhi allows for violence under some circumstances. No such allowance is made by Jesus. Nor, does the Catholic Church mean by nonviolent love towards friends and enemies what Jesus means by nonviolent love towards friends and enemies. It like Gandhi—albeit with a different rationale than Gandhi’s— allows for violence in certain circumstances. The crossroads where interpreters of those words part company is at the point
of the person of Jesus being the reality through those words are to be interpreted. The previously noted statement by Benedict XVI in the Fifth Fast Food Helping is pertinent here: “Jesus did not leave behind Him a body of teachings that could be separated or distinguished from His ‘I.’ ‘I’ and His words are indistinguishable.“
The love that Jesus proclaims in words is identical, is absolutely one, with the love He proclaims by His person in deeds. Therefore all interpretations of the love, which Jesus announced is the love of “God who is love,” the love that is God’s will, the love that saves each and all, the love that is meant in “love you enemies,” the love that motivates a Christian to “turn the other cheek,” must be love in total identity and conformity with Jesus’ last and new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Any interpretation of anything Jesus said or commanded other than one that is focused through His “new commandment,” any understanding of His words other than through their total identity with His person is not an interpretation consistent with the meaning of His words in the Gospels.
“Follow me,” indeed, means follow in faith His teaching as well as His person, but it also means follow in faith His person as well as His teaching, because “word and ‘I’ are indistinguishable.”
Perhaps here we have hit upon the tragic flaw of contemporary Christians Peace and Justice groups, including Nonviolent Christian Peace and Justice groups, namely, the presenting of the words of Jesus as an ethical norm for Christians and/or non-Christians to follow without the proclamation of the person who is the incarnation of the definitive and infallible content of those words. This reduces the words of the Jesus of the Gospels to the moral equivalent of the “ideas of great thinkers whose word can be interpreted and evaluated without reference to the person.”
The Christ of faith cannot be separated from the Jesus of history and His teachings as the Constantinian Churches have done. But what is equally true is that the Jesus of history and His teachings cannot be separated from the Christ of faith. As the refrain from the old song says, “You can’t have one without the other.” The effeteness of both the Constantinian Christian Churches and Christian Peace and Justice groups, nonviolent or otherwise, can be significantly attributed to trying to proclaim “one without the other.”